Recently, a lot of high-profile people including politicians have been victims of swatting calls.
The FBI describes swatting as someone calling 911 and faking an emergency that draws a response from law enforcement, usually a SWAT team.
From 2023 to now, there were seven swatting incidents in Duval County.
Recently, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office responded to a caller claiming to be held hostage by three to four people with weapons. When they investigated, they found the apartment was vacant and the report mentions this wasn’t the first time they’d been called to that apartment for swatting.
Retired Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office director Tom Hackney describes what swatting calls do to victims as “It’s really just a revenge in some cases to cause havoc in people’s lives.”
Two of the swatting incidents dealt with 14-year-olds.
The first one happened in the Sandalwood neighborhood of Jacksonville.
According to this incident report, from October to November of last year a teen who’d been playing a game called Roblox, started getting messages from another gamer.
The other gamer began demanding money and threatened that deliveries and police would start showing up to his house if money wasn’t sent.
The report says “numerous deliveries ” started arriving to the home and swatting calls of a person shot, and a domestic dispute were called into police.
The second deals with a 14-year-old girl which happened this month.
She was on a messaging platform and someone on that platform got her information and started harassing her.
The report says the person harassing her contacted JSO three times about the teen and they were verified swatting calls.
Hackney says it’s sad these teens and their families had to go through this because it takes away a level of trust and requires law enforcement to divert resources from looking into what they should into something not true.
“A lot of these have some kind of ties to online presence be it from some type of online gaming platform or some type of online persona you have. Putting measures in place that would protect your IP address or home address or your personal information in any way can help eliminate some of that threat,” says Hackney.
Hackney says a simple way to protect the information you put out there is limiting the type of information you post on your social media.
In Florida, a swat initiator can be charged with a second-degree felony if any person is injured, and a first-degree felony if anyone dies as a result of swatting.